February 14th will be a hard day for my village. It will be the one year anniversary of Richard’s death. It doesn’t even seem like it’s been that long. His absence here has been palpable. Especially for his family.
I want my last post before my vacation to focus on one lady in particular. His life partner of 20 years, Judy.
When Howard and I first moved here, it was of course, an adjustment. Not a hard one considering where we came from but nevertheless an adjustment. Many people welcomed us immediately and some took some time to get to know us better. A couple of those people were Judy and Rich. Where Rich was always ready with a smile and some conversation, Judy was too.
On our community message board, Judy was always the one saying positive things about everyone. If it was your birthday, you better believe she was one of the first people to post about it. Every Friday night at steak night, we could count on Judy being there with either Rich or her sister, Betty. The conversation was always lively with her and there was lots of laughter. Howard and I grew fond of her very quickly. She was and is one of the most gentle souls we’ve ever encountered. She loves to tell stories of her wild adventures growing up in rural Alaska and as an Athabascan Indian. The woman can shoot a moose like nobody’s business and hang with the big boys out on a camping trip too.
Everytime we leave the bar, she gives us a big hug and tells us she loves us. Just thinking of our Judy makes us smile. I really don’t think she has a mean bone in her body.
When Richard died, our hearts broke for her. For every tear we shed for him, we shed for Judy too. Richard was the greatest love of her life and now he was gone.
While Judy was honest about her immense grief over him, she could always find a way to smile too. Even when Howard and I didn’t know what to say, Judy did. This past year we’ve spent a few nights with her at a bonfire here or there and she loves to reminisce happily about Richard. We let her because we know that memories are all she has left of him now.
One night over the summer while Mama Jean was visiting, we had a big party and Judy, her best friend Debby, Howard and myself, sat at our kitchen table and she told us of other tragedies in her life. Tragedies that I feel sharing here would betray her confidence in us. But I assure you that Judy has lost more than a human should in her lifetime. Howard held her hand and consoled her when she cried. More than anything Howard and I want to be there for her when she just wants to talk. I know she would do the same for us.
Howard and I think about Judy and the losses in her lifetime and we admire her strength. Not only to be able to go through the things that she has and still be able to stand up and talk about it, but the fact that her losses have not made her bitter. I don’t know that I could go through what she has and not be a hard-edged cynic in the end. But Judy remains the loving, strong, funny and beautiful woman I’m sure she always has been. I hope that if, God forbid, I lose Howard in such a tragic way, that I too, can come out stronger and more hopeful in the end.
Judy says that she couldn’t have gotten through this past year without her friends and family and no doubt her family and friends have consumately been by her side and she is blessed but I don’t think Judy gives herself enough credit. A lot of her strength comes from her spirit and her unwielding instinct to push through the tragedy and come out on the other side stronger, wiser, and grateful. Her strength and grace should be a beautiful example to everyone who has suffered such a loss.
We love you Judy and while we won’t be here on the 1 year, please know that you and your family will be in our thoughts.